Vet clinics in Cranbrook, Creston, Fernie, Invermere and Kimberely have started working together to provide a network of after-hours emergency care.
Officials said the East Kootenay Veterinary Group (EKVG) will help relieve some pressure off individual clinics in the region.
“The local veterinary community has been faced with an overwhelming increase in demand for both emergent and non-emergent veterinary care,” said Steeples Veterinary Clinic officials. “This demand, coupled with the shortage of veterinarians and veterinary technicians, has resulted in burnout and mental and physical exhaustion amongst many veterinary professionals in the area.”
In the announcement made on Thursday, officials said after-hours calls will be triaged by a vet technician to help callers determine if emergency treatment is needed.
“This partnership is a fluid arrangement that may evolve as the needs of our community change. The call sharing is based on available team members per clinic, with clinics with more team members offering more coverage and clinics with fewer team members offering less coverage,” said Steeples Veterinary Clinic staff.
If your pet requires urgent after-hours care, you will be directed to the on-call clinic for that particular day. The veterinarian at that location will be given the details of the call and your anticipated time of arrival.
Steeples Veterinary Clinic staff said the on-call clinic will usually be in Cranbrook, but there will be times when travel to one of the other communities may be needed.
“While we truly understand how inconvenient this may be, the alternative would be to refer our clients to the nearest veterinary emergency center, which would be a minimum of 3 to 4 hours away,” said officials.
Staff said the shortage of veterinary professionals has been felt acutely in smaller communities, where staffing needs may be harder to meet.
“In the Kootenays, the veterinary community, unfortunately, does not have the luxury of an emergency referral practice within a reasonable driving distance, which would greatly help mitigate the volume of emergency calls those local veterinarians and veterinary technicians are faced with on a daily basis,” said officials.
“While the clinics in our community have managed to provide uninterrupted emergency care in the past, this task has become too overwhelming for the few clinics to maintain.”
Staff with the Steeples veterinary clinic said they are confident that the EKVG will help maintain the level of emergency after-hours care that is needed for veterinary workers and those who rely on their services.